Global Policy Forum

Alert! United Nations sold out to MAI and the TNCs?


By Olivier de Marcellus

People's Global Action
October 1, 1998

Since taking office, Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan has repeatedly made himself an outspoken partisan of "free" trade and neo-liberalism. His meeting with the International Chamber of Commerce in February is described by Helmut Maucher of Nestlé (President of ICC) as "a turning point in the attitude of the United Nations with regard to international business". In May, the United Nations was "occupied" by the WTO summit (although WTO is not part of the United Nations system). Now Kofi Annan (people are calling him "Nes"Kofi) has lent his prestige to the ICC conference, "Geneva Business Dialogue" (Sept. 23-24), just as MAI talks are due to start again! Despite the resistance of the Subcommission on Human Rights, the United Nations is being co-opted into the neo-liberal, totalitarian "consensus". To protest against this development, the Geneva Co-ordination against MAI organised demonstrations in front of the United Nations and in front of the "Geneva Business Dialogue" on the 23rd and 24th of September.

With People's Global Action, they also planned to send world-wide the appeal below. However, they had underestimated the fear and the authoritarian reactions that our international mobilisations against WTO and MAI have already generated in the world's ruling class.

Two days after the press conference announcing our actions against the CCI conference, a seminar on globalisation being held in Geneva was raided. All the people present were arrested and questioned and several foreigners expelled without justification. The police openly admitted that their action was "preventive" with respect to the CCI conference! Then on Tuesday Sept. 8, just before the international appeal was to be sent out, several dozen police raided three homes and the Geneva press office of PGA, interrogated six persons and seized eight computers, more than a hundred diskettes and practically all documents concerning PGA. Three weeks later, most of this material has not been returned. The police pretended (without the slightest justification) that they were looking for evidence of links between PGA and the authors of "violence" in during the protestations against WTO in May, but the objective was obviously to intimidate and criminalise the opposition to MAI in Geneva and sabotage our appeal. The police also thus seized hundreds of names of PGA contacts and sympathisers world over. This is particularly serious in view of the fact that we already have proof that the people whose identity was controlled in May are now in the federal police computer as "participating in violent demonstrations against WTO". How much further will those names go?

The declarations of Helmut Maucher and others during the "Geneva Business Dialogue" left little doubt about who had inspired this unprecedented - for Geneva - repression of democratic rights. The final declaration of the conference included frightening recommendations concerning the role of States according to the corporate "Big Brother":

Markets need "strong and efficient (i.e. lean) government." Among the four functions of the State outlined by the declaration is the control of "activist pressure groups", whose "proliferation" "risks weakening the effectiveness of public rules, legitimate institutions and democratic processes." The declaration even has the nerve to accuse activist groups of lacking "internal democracy, transparency and accountability" (The pot calling the kettle black!) It goes on to say that "They should assume full responsibility for the consequences of their activities. Where this does not take place, rules establishing their rights and responsibilities should be considered." The menace to popular rights is thinly veiled, and is totally coherent with the responsibility of States with respect to "civil disturbances" foreseen by the MAI. That it should be expressed and acted upon so crudely at the first sign of opposition is really quite frightening. Our "Internet guerrilla", as the Financial Times calls it, is already taken deadly seriously. In many countries the reaction may rapidly be literally lethal. Activists, be prudent!

According to journalists present, most of the conference was devoted to "backlash" against globalisation and rather anxious discussion of the Asian and increasingly global crisis. (The Geneva Business Declaration begins by saying "We must not lose our nerve...") Suddenly, TNC spokesmen have started distinguishing between "responsible" and "irresponsible" globalisation. However, they still call to press ahead with yet more deregulation, many of them preferring to temporarily abandon MAI, rather than to accept any kind of social or environmental clause. They try to appear concerned by the social effects of the world crisis, but are incapable of even imagining what it means to the people. Thus Ruggiero of WTO sympathises with all those whose "assets" have lost value, but forgets to talk of those who are going hungry! As Marie-Antoinette said in 1789, "If they have no bread, let them eat cake!" (...and buy bonds next time.)

Despite the intimidation, the protest campaign continues well. A benefit concert and a film projection were very successful. More than 80 Swiss organisations participate in our co-ordination, which aims to collect 50 000 signatures against MAI. About 700 people occupied the square in front of the UN from 18H to 23 H on the 23rd. Speakers included the general secretary of the Federation of International Civil Servants Associations; the secretary of the UPS, the small farmers union; the head of the Swiss civil servants union; and representatives of NGOs active at the UN, WWF-Switzerland, and the Observatoire de la Mondialisation of Paris. Musicians and artists offered their talents, the farmers brought food, a non-Hollywood film was projected. The very varied sectors of society opposed to MAI and globalisation met and were glad to be together. At midday on the 24th, activists were waiting when Maucher and his complices emerged from their conference. We looked them straight in the eye, yelling "To those who wish to dominate the world, the world replies: RESISTANCE!" Maucher was furious.

To protest against MAI and the CCI's takeover bid on the UN, we ask you to sign the statement below. We are confident that the reason for its getting out late will motivate many more people to sign it and send it around the world!

United Nations selling out to TNCs For human rights, against the MAI!
Convenors Committee of People's Global Action

On the eve of new negotiations concerning the Multilateral Accord on Investment (MAI), the International Chamber of Commerce, is organising a conference ("The Geneva Business Dialogue", 23-25 September) well timed to enlist the principal international organisations, and particularly the UN, in their campaign for MAI and neoliberal trade policies in general. (As the lobby organisation of the 200 most powerful transnational corporations (TNCs), ICC boasts that it inspired some of the most extremist provisions of MAI, among others the possibility for TNCs themselves to attack national States and legislations in the court of their choice... such as the ICC's "tribunal"!)

Amazingly, the ICC is publicising its conference as the result of an "agreement" with U.N. Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan, quoting his approval of this "timely... means of consultation between the United Nations and the business community". Since taking office, Kofi Annan has repeatedly expressed personal and unilateral opinions on the supposed benefits of "free" trade, privatisation and neo-liberal economic policies for the developing countries. By what kind of rhetoric can Mr. Annan reconcile these positions with the United Nations Charter on economic rights and duties (1974), which proclaims "Each nation has the inalienable right to regulate foreign investment and to exercise its control on investment", precisely the right that MAI would alienate for a period of at least 20 years?

In sharp contrast, the experts of the U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities have for the second time just called upon all member States of the United Nations to develop mechanisms to defend economic, cultural and social rights, violated in total impunity by the current trend of globalisation, characterised by ever-increasing inequality, the weakening of popular sovereignty and the increasing concentration of power by giant TNCs. In August 1998, the UN Subcommission unanimously adopted a resolution calling for close scrutiny of MAI, "which might limit the capacity of States to take proactive steps to ensure the enjoyment of economic, cultural and social rights by all people, creating benefits for a small, privileged minority at the expense of an increasingly disenfranchised majority."

The undersigned persons and organisations hereby express their opposition to MAI and to the "buyout" of the United Nations by TNCs.

Return to: AMP c/o IAS, 5 Rue Samuel Constant, Ge 1201
Tel/Fax 4122 3444731
e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.